As we enter 2018, numerous uncertainties are dominating the minds of American citizens and investors. We are happy to weigh in on what we consider to be both un-useful and useful uncertainties as they pertain to long duration ownership of common stocks.
It is hard to think about 1981, my first full year in the investment business. Three-month Treasury bills were paying 18%, longer-term Treasury bonds yielded 15% to maturity and cheap stocks got 20% cheaper. In the summer of 1981, we saw a stock market decline from an already depressed market trading at eight-times after-tax profits down closer to six times.
Over the weekend I stopped to watch the last part of a James Stewart Western called, The Far Country. It was the story of two cattle drivers who took their cattle all the way to the Yukon to get a piece of the late 1890’s Klondike gold rush.
A massive amount of stock market capitalization is tied up in companies based on both their potential market share and hypothetical future profits. The popular arguments in their favor come from looking at a company’s total addressable market (TAM). Sky high price-to-earnings ratios and massive capitalizations are common in companies with a large TAM as we finish up 2017.
As famed market strategist Richard Bernstein has pointed out, investors should pattern common stock selection after the investment style of the Mafia. What causes the Mafia to get such good returns? How do they spot opportunities? Why should we as investors in publicly-traded common stocks emulate their behavior near the end of 2017?
All major financial euphoria episodes hold aspects in common. Among our favorite books on investing is John Kenneth Galbraith’s A Short History of Financial Euphoria. More than any other economist, we admire his understanding of the connection between the securities markets and the economy.
The first time I read Forbes magazine was in 1980 as a brokerage trainee in New York City. I was fascinated by the company stories and the way the top investment disciplines were analyzed. In the 100th Anniversary Issue—published in September 2017—over 100 successful business and investment people wrote a short essay.
Many well-regarded experts have weighed in on the length and the pricing of common stocks eight and one half years into this bull market. They range from the dire warnings of perma-bears like Marc Faber to more reserved warnings from Howard Marks and Robert Shiller.
In the Bible, Jesus arrives to help his friend Lazarus a few days after he had already died. His friends Mary and Martha were very disappointed because they thought all hope was lost. As the story goes, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
Value investing is very similar to farming. A farmer needs fertile ground, well-planted seeds, unshakable patience, loads of sunshine, watering and weeding, as well as a great deal of courage and faith to succeed in the long run. Today, we believe that investors need to reexamine the benefits of a value investing approach toward the end of an era which has rewarded growth stock investing.